What's Wrong With My Cat's Nose?

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Cats can have nose problems, like any other animal. Nose problems are often signs of other health issues. Simple medication and treatment by a veterinarian can help eliminate the problem. The symptoms will usually help you figure out what the underlying cause is and how your veterinarian can improve your cat's wellness.


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What does a cat nose tell you?

A cat's nose can tell you a few things about overall cat health. Common nose problems in cats resemble those of humans, and sometimes dogs. The problem usually isn't severe if caught and treated quickly. Your veterinarian will check for any abnormal growths on your cats nose; sores or blisters; discharge that could indicate a respiratory infection; or signs of injury.


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A healthy cat nose should be moist but not wet, and dry but not cracking. There is a lot of variation within what is normal for cats, but overall, the nose should be symmetrical on both sides and not producing discharge or anything else that could impact a cat being able to breathe through both nostrils.


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Why are cat noses wet?

A cat's nose shouldn't be dripping wet. If it is noticeably wet, first check to see if your cat has been grooming itself or may have just taken some sips of water. If the problem is beyond that, then consider some of these causes of a cat's wet nose. A moist nose helps improve a cat's sense of smell, because the dampness holds on to scent particles better than a dry nose would. This same effect is true for a dog nose too.


Nasal discharge

Nasal discharge in cats is a sign that the cat may have an upper respiratory infection. Nasal discharge is common with a variety of illnesses. The symptoms include clear, cloudy, or bloody discharges. When the discharge is clear, your cat most likely has a cold or an allergy. If the discharge is cloudy, this means bacteria or a virus contamination. If you find blood, this usually means the possibility of tumors, trauma, or serious inflammation. If your cat is an outdoor cat, it is possible that part of a plant may have gotten stuck in your cat's nasal cavity.


A cat's runny nose accompanied by sneezing or coughing may indicate a respiratory infection. Your veterinarian can help you identify and treat the infection before it gets worse. Cats normally do not breathe through their mouths, so if a cat has a stuffy nose and is breathing through its mouth, that's a sign that your vet should checkout the problem.



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Cat nose congestion

Cat nose congestion occurs for the same reason as it does in humans — the nasal passage is blocked. Usually the cat will sneeze to clear it out. If the sneezing becomes persistent or the breathing becomes noisy, this will require more serious attention. Usually this will be the result of an allergy, a foreign body like a part of a foxtail plant, or infections. A cat's runny nose can result from a bacterial infection such as staphylococcus, streptococcus, E. coli, or salmonella. Bacterial infections are the second most common cause of runny noses.


Cat nose injury

Another common nose problem is injuries. Pet parents know that cats get into fights and have accidents. Injuries to the nose can include scratches, tears, or brush burns. Signs include redness, bleeding, cuts, swelling, and pawing at the nose.


Cat nose growths

A sunburned cat nose can happen! Any cat can get sunburned, but it is more of a risk for cats with white fur or thin fur or patches with no fur (such as if they were recently shaved for a veterinary visit). If a cat is sunburned on its tender nose, blisters may form which could look like cat nose growths.

More common in white cats, especially when they are sunburned, is the problem of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Non-cancerous nasal polyps, which can look like growths, may cause sneezing and discharge.

Upper respiratory infection

Virus infections can be a serious nose problem. The most common upper respiratory feline infections are feline herpes also called feline rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and chlamydia infection. All three are contagious to other cats. Symptoms include severe sneezing, nasal discharges from both nostrils, inflammation of the eyes causing discharge, loss of appetite, and bleeding.


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Why is my cat's nose dry?

There are a few common nose problems in cats. To identify a possible nose problem, check the nose for dryness. This is one of the first signs that there is a problem. A cat's nose should not be so dry that it is cracking or flaking. A cat can develop allergies to things such as fragrances or dust. If you are using a scented cat litter in your litter boxes, or one that creates a lot of dust, it may smell good to you but it could be bothering your cat. A cat litter that has a lot of dust in it could increase a cat's allergic reaction. In turn, an allergic cat could develop a dry sinus passage that causes bleeding.

The bottom line

There is a wide variety of what is a normal wetness or dryness for a cat, so your first line of defense is to get to know what is the norm for your cat. Then, if something changes you will know that you should seek veterinary care. In general, a damp, shiny nose is a sign of a cat's good overall health. A cat nose that is dripping from discharge, or that cat can't breathe evenly though both nostrils, is a sign that your cat needs to be examined. Likewise, a cat's nose that is dry, cracking, or flaking, or shows signs of a growth or obstruction, needs to be looked at.



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